One of the great composers of the nineteenth century, Schumann was the quintessential artist whose life and work embody the idea of Romanticism in music. Schumann was uncomfortable with larger musical forms, such as the symphony and the concerto (nevertheless, representative works in these genres contain moments of great beauty), expressing the full range of his lyrical genius in songs and short pieces for piano. Schumann's extraordinary ability to translate profound, delicate -- and sometimes fleeting -- states of the soul is exemplified by works such as the song cycle Dichterliebe (A Poet's Love), after Heinrich Heine, and his brilliant collections of short piano pieces, including Phantasiestücke (Fantastic Pieces), Kinderszenen (Scenes form Childhood), and Waldszenen (Forest Scenes). In his songs, as critics have remarked, Schumann attained the elusive union of music and poetry which Romantic poets and musicians defined as the ultimate goal of art. Schumann's father was a bookseller who encouraged Robert's musical and literary talents. Robert started studying piano at age 10. In 1828, he enrolled at the University of Leipzig as a law student, although he found music, philosophy, and Leipzig's taverns more interesting than the law. He also began studies with a prominent Leipzig piano teacher, Friedrich Wieck. There was serious mental illness in Schumann's family, and the composer, who most likely suffered from a manic-depressive condition, approached madness with the typical Romantic combination of fear and fascination. A compulsive womanizer and a heavy drinker, Schumann led a life that aggravated his psychological problems. His efforts to become a concert pianist failed after he developed partial paralysis of his right hand. According to a conventional story, the injury resulted from Schumann's compulsive use of a finger-strengthening device, but newer research points to mercury poisoning due to treatment for syphilis. Schumann settled on a career as a composer and musical writer, co-founding the influential Neue Zeitschrift für Musik and attracting attention early with his prophetic praise of Chopin. Many of his articles take the form of dialogues featuring the "League of David," young artists fighting the "Philistines," and headed by his alter egos "Florestan" and "Eusebius," intended to represent the two contrasting facets -- one ebullient, the other reserved -- of his personality. Schumann's music, with its sharp changes in mood, also reflects his tumultuous inner life. Wieck's highly talented pianist daughter Clara grew up and fell in love with Schumann, to her father's horror. Despite Wieck's opposition, Clara and Robert gained the legal right to marry in 1840, a day before Clara's 21st birthday. During this period Schumann composed feverishly. Spellbound by a musical thought, he would work himself to exhaustion, enthusiastically cultivating a particular genre for a period of time. (For instance, 1841 was a "year of songs" in which he brought the Romantic song cycle to its apex). He virtually invented the short, poetic, descriptive Romantic piano work, and produced such works in glorious profusion in the late 1830s. Schumann tackled larger forms in the 1840s, partly at Clara's urging; his four mature symphonies retain a place in the repertoire, but his opera Genoveva failed. He held several musical jobs, teaching at the newly-founded Leipzig Conservatory, eventually becoming town music director in Düsseldorf, but without much success. On February 27, 1854, he threw himself into the freezing waters of the Rhine. After his rescue, he voluntarily entered an asylum. Although he had periods of lucidity, his condition deteriorated, and he died there in 1856, probably of tertiary syphilis.
24 albums sorted by Bestsellers and filtered by harmonia mundi
Narrow my search
Classical - Released June 7, 2011 | harmonia mundi
Bernarda Fink's voice is well suited to the nineteenth century lied; it's warm, full, and intensely focused, with a radiant luminosity over its whole range. She projects a sense of regal composure and a maturity that's not so much chronological as spiritual; you just have the sense that this is a very centered individual. Those qualities, along with her interpretive sensitivity, make this a truly memorable version of Frauenliebe und -leben. Fink is fully convincing in the progression from the love-struck girl to the young bride to the grieving widow not so much through vocal coloring -- she wisely doesn't attempt to "age" her voice -- but through more subtle interpretive choices, such as varying the emotional temperature of the songs through the intensity she brings to each one. She is consistently fine throughout the cycle, exploiting its emotional profundity, but the first and last songs are especially effective and moving. Roger Vignoles is a sensitive and self-effacing accompanist. The recital includes anther complete cycle, the Lenau Lieder, Op. 90, as well as nine other songs. Fink brings the same gorgeous sound and interpretive depth to the whole recital, making this a CD that should be of strong interest to any lieder fans. Harmonia Mundi's sound is a little on the shallow side, but after an initial period of adjustment, its lack of a stronger presence becomes less obvious or bothersome.
Solo Piano - Released March 24, 2014 | harmonia mundi
Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles de Classica - Hi-Res Audio
Chamber Music - Released May 15, 2012 | harmonia mundi
Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio